Giving back to the community and providing for those in need can be difficult when absorbed with debt. This is why Marsha Kerr of Elizabethtown believes her mission to provide locals with financial literacy is by virtue a Christian endeavor.
“It gets us to a point of being able to do God’s work a little easier,” she said.
Working with Valley Creek Baptist Church in Elizabethtown, Kerr hosts weekly Financial Peace University classes for those in need of personal finance education. A nine-week class developed by noted personal finance expert Dave Ramsey, the program is available for groups or for individual use.
Kerr first began hosting Financial Peace University group classes in 2003 after listening to Ramsey’s radio program. The first class consisted of 22 students and took place over 13 weeks.
“Back then, there were tons of credit card offers sent in the mail,” Kerr said. “We asked everyone to bring their offers and during our graduation, we celebrated that as a group we rejected $7.1 million. We had a great time with this class and even had a group yard sale to kick off our emergency funds.”
Kerr currently is teaching her seventh class of students. The session started Jan. 12 and continues until March 8. Classes are held each Sunday at 9 a.m. at Valley Creek’s Springfield Road campus in Room 201.
In addition to her work with Valley Creek, Kerr also has hosted one class series in her home in 2018.
Concepts taught through the classes include starting an emergency fund, learning to budget, paying off debt, how to smartly invest, the role of insurance, retirement planning, paying a mortgage and ways to give.
During Valley Creek classes, a number of consistent practices take place, including a prayer request book, the celebration of financial accomplishments called “weekly wins” and the cutting up of credit cards. Kerr said these cut-up credit cards are used to make ornaments and other gifts for class graduations.
Classes typically begin in January, though some also have started in September. Kerr said holding the classes in correlation with tax season allows her to encourage students to efficiently use their tax returns. She said the timing also attracts those who are looking to fulfill financial New Year’s resolutions.
Although registration cannot be completed for the current class series, sign ups for the next Valley Creek series will be offered internally and as Facebook events.
Kerr said the program is not just reserved for those struggling with debt, but for anyone wanting to learn more about personal finance.
“I have had students that already have a nice savings account and are interested in learning more about retirement or insurance,” she said. “They become amazing mentors to the scared young couple that are facing foreclosure. The class is a benefit to anyone.”
Kerr said 114 students have graduated through her group thus far. Although she conducts these classes for free, Kerr said the impact she has helped make on others has been priceless.
“You’re walking through the pain and growth with them, and that’s why I do it,” she said.